Deforestation linked to collagen demand


The collagen industry, worth an estimated $4 billion (£3.32 billion), is sourcing tens of thousands of cattle from farms responsible for deforestation in Brazil’s tropical forests. While the links between beef, soya, and deforestation in the country are widely recognized, little attention has been paid to the connection between the booming collagen industry and the destruction of forests. Collagen, which can be extracted from fish, pigs, and cattle, is claimed by its most fervent proponents to have a positive impact on hair, skin, nails, and joints, slowing the aging process. Beauty and wellness companies, pharmaceutical companies, and those producing food ingredients all use collagen.

The Guardian, Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Center for Climate Crime Analysis (CCCA), ITV, and O Joio e O Trigo in Brazil investigated the matter and discovered that cattle raised on farms that cause deforestation were processed at abattoirs serving international collagen supply chains. Some of this collagen has been traced to Vital Proteins, a leading producer of bovine collagen supplements owned by Nestlé. The company’s collagen range is sold worldwide, including in the US and UK, and is endorsed by Jennifer Aniston, the actor and chief creative officer of Vital Proteins, who has been using it for years and adding it to her morning coffee.

While some studies suggest that taking collagen orally can benefit joint and skin health, the Harvard School of Public Health has cautioned that potential conflicts of interest exist as most, if not all, of the research is either funded by the industry or carried out by scientists affiliated with it. Unlike beef, soya, palm oil, and other food commodities, collagen is not covered by forthcoming due diligence legislation in the EU and UK designed to tackle deforestation, and collagen companies have no obligation to track their environmental impacts.

Nestlé stated that the allegations raised are not in line with its commitment to responsible sourcing and that it has contacted its supplier to investigate. It added that it is taking steps to ensure that its products are deforestation-free by 2025. Non-meat products, such as leather and collagen, which account for just under half of a slaughtered cow’s weight and can generate up to 20% of meatpackers’ incomes, according to the USDA, are described as byproducts of the cattle industry. However, campaigners dispute the term “byproduct,” arguing that demand for beef, leather, and collagen has resulted in more and more forest being cleared and replaced by pasture, with land often seized illegally.

Most livestock-driven deforestation can be attributed to indirect suppliers of companies, according to Ricardo Negrini, a federal prosecutor in Brazil’s Pará state who monitors beef processors’ climate commitments. Cattle are frequently moved from farm to farm for various stages of rearing, so a cow born on deforested land may be fattened for slaughter at a “clean” finishing ranch. But Negrini contends that all meat companies have the capacity to track the origins of the cattle they purchase.



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